- Helping Employees with Mental Health Issues Get Back to Work
Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.: Oct 20th 2015
- Secrecy at Work: A Growing Phenomenon
Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.: Oct 15th 2015
- Life Goals and the Perception of Time: Do It Now!
Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.: Oct 1st 2014
- Tackling Mental Illness Stigma at the College Level
Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.: Sep 24th 2014
- Social Workers in Emergency Rooms: An Idea Long Overdue
Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.: Sep 17th 2014
- New Biochemical Research Points to Five Types of Depression
Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.: Sep 10th 2014
- Challenges Increase for Family Caregivers when Cognitive and Behavioral Issues are Present
Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.: Sep 5th 2014
- Are You a Caregiver?
Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.: Aug 29th 2014
- To Age with Joy, Be True to Yourself
Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.: Aug 26th 2014
- Eight Ways to Take Care of Yourself During a Health Crisis
Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.: Aug 22nd 2014
View Full Archive
A Sense of Place: Helping Victims of Natural Disasters
Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.: Fri, May 24th 2013
My heart goes out to everyone in Oklahoma and beyond that was affected by the horrendous tornado that swept through the region on Monday, May 20, 2013. The loss of life was astonishing, the number injured devastating, and the damage to infrastructure, businesses, and homes almost inconceivable.
The mental health implications of such a disaster are numerous. Those who lost loved ones, neighbors, and friends will be working through their grief while simultaneously trying to put the pieces of their own lives back together. Some will develop post-traumatic stress disorder due to the trauma of living through a natural disaster and seeing things that most people never experience in real life. Others will assume leadership roles, parental stances, and otherwise "pull-up-your-bootstraps" mentalities that help others feel strong, but that also come with their own psychological costs.
Perhaps what I think of most when considering the long-term impacts of the tornado is the sense of place that is central to our lives. We all identify with a certain place as "home," and that home is a psychological as well as physical comfort. It grounds us, it allows us to seek refuge, and it feels like one of the few things in life on which we can depend.
So what happens when that comfort - our sense of place - gets ripped from our lives? Suddenly, we are adrift. We cannot seek refuge or safety in that one place we always counted on for security and consistency. Our equilibrium is forever altered. According to the American Psychological Association, some of the normal responses to this kind of tragedy are shock, denial, intense emotions, and physical symptoms.
Thankfully, the resilience of the human species is insurmountable. Somehow, we move forward and start living again. We adapt. We create new homes. But sometimes, we get stuck - and that's when a little extra help is needed.
If you have experienced a natural disaster that destroyed your sense of place - or if you know someone who has - here are some resources that can help:
- The Red Cross offers a free, 24/7 Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990. You can also text "TalkWithUs" to 66746.
- Call your local mental health department to find out if there are support groups in your area for people experiencing difficulties after natural disasters.
- Learn about the normal emotional responses to natural disasters. For an excellent summary, see this article by the American Psychological Association.
- To gauge your level of personal growth after experiencing a trauma such as a natural disaster, take the Post Traumatic Growth Inventory, offered by the American Psychological Association.
If you have experienced a natural disaster or other trauma that impacted your sense of place, how did you cope? Let us know what worked for you - your advice could make a difference in the lives of others in similar circumstances.